Recently, I had a season where the squeeze was tight on my family and friends. It seemed everything that could go wrong did – from hospitalizations to car accidents to COVID, the weight threatened to crush me. I fought the darkness with the weapon of worship.
Despite the press, I went to church on Sunday. I’ve learned that thinking I can gain time by skipping church is always a loss in the long run. That week, they sang “Firm Foundation (He Won’t)” by Cody Carnes. My mouth formed words that no matter how hard it got, God would never fail me ever. Tears of relief streamed down my face. God can’t fail. He always prevails. Even in the storms, the Lord helps me stay steady. The truth seeped into my soul and became my anthem throughout the week.
It makes sense that spiritual songs usher the Spirit into our minds and reinforce our hearts. Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
While the world may say to drink to drown your sorrows, the Bible says to pull out your hymnal. The time-tested words contain deep doctrine so you can tap into spiritual strength to fortify you soul. Sometimes, people knock the old hymns as antiquated, but if they have lasted hundreds of years, that says something. I love both contemporary praise music and the classics. The hymn “Have Faith in God,” reminds me of God's sovereignty that supersedes my circumstances. I can trust God when I don’t see answers to prayer immediately, because He will answer yet.
We also gain strength from singing the name of Jesus. Isaiah 12:2 says, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” (NKJV) It may seem silly to think of a person as a song, but think of the love songs on the radio. Many of them name the person the singer extols. So, why not sing Jesus? I love the old hymn “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know” also known as “He Keeps Me Singing.” He does! When I keep singing the name of Jesus over and over, it brings His power into the room. When I vocalize His goodness and grace, and it puts my focus back on the character of God instead of my circumstances.
Now, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Fortunately, all God desires is for me to make a joyful noise. I pray that you find your songs of strength. May God keep you singing as you go to strengthen you heart more and more with each psalm of hope that you sing.
Once a friend of mine was dating a guy who was not a believer. I was in my early 20s and had some Pharisaical tendencies. I told her in no uncertain terms that having a relationship with him defied biblical truths, and she needed to dump him. You can only imagine how that went. Not well. My harsh words lost me credibility with my friend. She continued to date him anyway. I shook my head and wondered how she could live in such disobedience.
Later, God convicted me of my approach. In my Bible reading, I came across Ephesians 4:15a, “speaking the truth in love.” Hmm. I had nailed speaking the truth part, but was shaky on sharing it in love. Fire and brimstone would’ve been better descriptions of how I showered my judgment on her. I tried to justify it to myself by explaining that I have the spiritual gift of exhortation. It is my job to help people do the right thing. However, my words needed to be clothed in humility instead of pride.
A year later, a different friend starting dating a non-Christian man. This time, I was determined to try a gentler approach. I pulled up the specific Bible verses and wrote them down. When we met, I tried to pour out my concerns to her in kindness instead of ire. I told her I cared about her as a friend, but couldn’t support her decision to be with this person, and it grieved me. She still chose to be with him, but I didn’t bear any guilt that I drove her away from truth like I had with the last friend. While I can speak truth to people in love, I can’t make them choose the correct decision.
Do you ever struggle to say the right thing the right way? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (NKJV). This verse reminds me of the test my mom told me to give before I let any words cross my lips. I was supposed to ask three questions:
1. Is it true? – If my words are corrupt because they are born from anger or pride, they will not be truth and will not bless the hearer. Lies are not becoming of a daughter of the King.
2. Is it necessary? – Sometimes, even things that are true aren’t necessary to say because they won’t build up the person in the moment. I can let someone know that they have food between they teeth. That is true and necessary so that they can brush their teeth and feel good.
3. Is it kind? – The point is to impart grace to everyone you interact with. Imagine if your friend bought a new dress that she loves, but you don’t. Telling her you think she looks like a purple hippo isn’t necessary or kind. If she likes the outfit, let her enjoy it.
My second approach in telling truth to my friend definitely fulfills the requirements of all three questions much better than the first approach. I have to trust God will the results of what He asks me to share, but recognize that how I talk makes a difference. I pray that you will speak true, necessary, and kind words that are wrapped in love to those around you this week.
Once I had a friend who was 6’6”. We nicknamed him Talls. He was head and shoulders taller than all my other friends. One year for his birthday I wrote him a card with Ephesians 3:17-19, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (NKJV)*. Then I wrote about how God’s love encompasses all directions.
The Width of God’s Love
Genesis 13:16-17 says, “And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” God told Abraham to measure the land that God had given him. The Lord kept His word to grant the entire area that He promised to give the children of Israel. The places we go and the ground we cover in our lifetimes has already been trod by the Lord. He is with us and goes before us. There is nowhere His love cannot reach us or cover us. He secures our inheritance for us with a love so wide it knows no end as it stretches from the east to the west.
The Length of God’s Love
God’s love extends to every day of our lives. 1 Kings 3:14 says, “So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” When we obey His law and live uprightly before God, He lengthens our lifespans. Honestly, sometimes with all the heartache the world holds, the thought of a long life can seem intimidating, but we exist to glorify God both on earth and for eternity.
As we strive to honor the Lord in our actions, each moment we breathe is a chance to praise God and make His glory known to a lost and dying world. There are many people that no one can reach but you. God designed your years to step into good works He foreordains, which includes proclaiming the gospel. When we get to heaven, we be unable to share the good news. Paul himself wrestled, torn between staying on earth and going to heaven to be with the Lord. However, he knew that he would have more fruit for his labor if he remained, and therefore chose to evangelize despite his prison chains (Philippians 1:19-26) Obedience that lengthens our days results in God’s presence every moment and His greater glory as we cling to Him.
The Heights of God’s Love
When I think of the heights of God’s love, I think of praising Him for His greatness. Psalm 148:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!” We soar above the heaven with joy for Who He is and all the wonderful things He has done. Every time that things are going great, God inhabits the heights with us there.
The Depths of God’s Love
Not only does God rejoice in our heights, God also sits beside us in the depths of despair. We cry out to God for salvation during times of trial. Psalm 130:1 says, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.” God does not turn a deaf ear to our cries or ignore our pain. While we really want to get out of the situation, we often don’t take time to enjoy God’s presence in the pit. I often don’t understand God’s timing or ways, but the times I’ve felt His work most intimately in my life were when my life seemed in shambles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
As we learn the empathy of the Father in the depths of heartache, we also discover that our joy shall be restored. Psalm 71:20 says, “You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” God won’t leave us in the misery. The Lord pulls us out of the depths and places us on firm ground where we can move forward in confidence (Psalm 40:2).
I pray that on your birthday, and every day of your life, will you understand the vast love that God has for you that nothing in creation can separate you from (Romans 8:38-39). There is no valley to wide, no road too long, no mountain too high, and no ocean too deep where God’s love will not enfold your every move. May you to bask in exceeding lovingkindness of the Lord.
I decided to read the Bible in another language this year. I considered it a good learning tool while also trying to grow spiritually. Yet, the longer I continued the practice, the dryer I grew.
Leviticus is hard enough to grasp in English, but in another language, it is mind numbing. I took at least twice as long as usual to read my Bible, yet I got less out of it. The day I read about the priests examining the raw flesh of people’s sores, which was literally “living meat” in the other language, I realized I wasn't learning practical vocabulary.
My sister called me out and told me to read the Bible in English. She said if I was trying to boast that I could read the Bible in another language, I wasn’t winning any spiritual rewards. She was right. I switched to English the next day, and rejoiced at how much spiritual meat was in Leviticus when I understood the words.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (NKJV). My work of reading the Bible in another language wasn’t going to save me.
For that matter, neither were any of the things I’ve tried to do for God in the past like have perfect attendance at church, serve in the nursery and the welcoming committee, and lead Bible study all at the same time. While those things may look good to other people, God looks at my heart. My boasting doesn’t impress God when I boast in myself.
We should only boast in the Lord. He gave us the gift of salvation through the blood of His Son Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Our salvation cannot equal grace plus anything else. For those with legalistic tendencies like myself, that truth can seem maddening.
Yet, God’s grace sets us free. We are not saved by our good works, but released from sin to commit good works unto God’s glory.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV). God is not against good works. Instead, He created acts of kindness for us to perform before the foundation of the world. The difference is not the act itself, but the heart motivation behind what we do. Are we trying to make ourselves look good or to glorify God for all He has done?
God is not impressed by my self-promotion. My reading the Bible in another language was not one of those things preordained for me to complete, but something I wanted to do to feel special. May we all check our hearts to ensure we are working for God’s renown and not our own. Because in the end, only His glory lasts forever.
What we call ourselves is who we become. Little children labeled stupid start to think they are dumb, making it difficult for them to excel. While not everyone has every talent, when we speak the truth of who we are in Christ, we grow into that identity over time and space. Second Corinthians 3:18 puts it this way, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (NKJV). The more we gaze upon the Lord, the more we reflect His image and look like Him to those around us.
When we see ourselves a certain way, we strive to become that. Athletes conduct visualization exercises as part of their training to excel in sports. When they see the skill performed in their mind’s eye, it improves performance on the field. If we speak truth to ourselves about who we are, we grow into that. Likewise, if we perceive ourselves as lacking, those thoughts can choke out our abilities. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. We must remind ourselves of who we are in Christ and fulfill our divine destinies.
I recently read a children’s book where the author gave grand titles to the children after they completed certain escapades. Instead of being named by their infirmities, like Linda the Lame, she became Linda the Brave who rushed into the thick of trouble. Instead of Hank the Hungry, he was Hank the Quick who could outrun the enemy. John the Jealous became John the Strong. The naming convention seemed a little odd to me until I thought about the Russian tsars. They had people like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. Which one would you rather be called?
Names matter. The names other people attach to us, and what we call ourselves. For a couple of years, I called my younger sister “Stinky” because her name starts with the letter “S.” Once I learned more about how the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), I quit calling her Stinky. It wasn’t true. My sister always smells good. I didn’t want to make her feel yucky by the monikers I placed on her. Now, I just stick with her actual name, which means “princess.” A much more delightful designation, I think we’d all agree.
Who do you think you are? I’ve been studying Ephesians, which contains rich jewels of who we are in Christ. In the first fourteen verses alone, we find that in Him we are:
Wow! The wonders of who God has made us in Christ blows my mind. What if instead of feeling like Joanna the Unwanted, I remind myself that I am Joanna – the Accepted in the Beloved. To go beyond thinking about this just once, what every morning I recited the list above about my identity in Christ. I imagine that by the end of a few months I would stand a little taller and walk out my life in Christ more richly.
We are who we think we are. If we aren’t intentional to meditate on our identity in Christ, we can lapse into who the world says we are. Christ has anchored our eternities in who He says we are. I choose to be Joanna the Saint, Joanna the Holy, Joanna the Redeemed, Joanna the Blameless. Who will you choose to be? I pray you become who you are in Christ by owning the reality of your identity in Him. May we all grow to be more like Jesus every day to the praise of His glory.
My pastor has given a sermon illustration about the importance of giving things in all circumstances several times. The story goes like this:
Fred arrived at church complaining because he had a flat tire. Fred grumbled to George, wondering if God cared about him since his tire blew out on the way to church. Didn’t God know he wanted to worship? Now his attitude was shot. George replied that Fred had nothing to be upset about, instead, he should give thanks. Give thanks? For what? He had to call a tow truck and pay for a taxi to get to church. He didn’t even know how he was getting home. George said Fred should be thankful he had a car to get a flat tire. Some people have to take the bus. Furthermore, Fred should be thankful for the money to buy a car to get a flat tire. He should even thank God for a job that provided him the money to buy the car to get a flat tire. George was stumped. He hadn’t thought about it that way. Maybe he had a lot to thank God for after all.
God has worked in my life a lot in the past few years to grow my gratitude muscles. I have started to notice when God is working in my life, big or small. After I nearly ran out of toilet paper during the start of the pandemic, I thank God almost every day for toilet tissue. I’m also grateful for good health in the last two years. The Lord has blessed me through thick and thin.
First Thessalonians 5:16-8 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV). When bad things happen, we are to rejoice, not moan. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I groan before giving thanks. I recently had the opportunity to put into practice the very sermon illustration my pastor shared.
On Christmas Eve, my flight home was cancelled. So, I thanked God for my car to drive the twelve- hour trek. My sister and I set out in the late afternoon because she had to work on Christmas Eve. About an hour south of my house, my low-pressure light lit on my dash. I thought maybe the cold had lowered the air in my tires, and I would fill them at the next exit. Then my steering started getting dicey. I pulled over on the side of the road. You guessed it! I had a flat tire. While I struggled to call USAA for help, my sister watched YouTube videos and tried to change the tire. I couldn’t get a human to answer, and wound up in tears when I encountered problems setting up an online account that wouldn’t let me enter my actual location. Meanwhile, the sun was setting. The day was getting darker by the minute.
As I sat there, I watched cars whiz by on the highway. I thought, maybe I should pray for someone who knows how to change tires that isn’t sketchy to stop and help us. Within five minutes, the state Department of Transportation guy pulled up behind us. Praise God! He changed my tire and jumped my car’s battery, dead from overusing the hazard lights.
Driving back to my house instead of home to family for Christmas, my sister was really discouraged about missing time opening presents with our family and eating together. I wasn’t too thrilled either. Then I remembered the story my pastor told. Because I’d heard it so many times, I knew what to do. I started thanking God for how He took care of us.
“Thank You God that we didn’t take a plane. You know that maybe we would’ve gotten COVID or something worse. Thank you for protecting us from the unknown. Thank You God that the flat tire was on the passenger side, so we could be away from the road while changing it. Thank You for sending the Department of Transportation person to help. Thank You God that I have a car to get a flat tire. Thank You God that I have money to buy a car to get a flat tire. Thank You God that I have a job to have money to buy a car to get a flat tire.”
The more I listed the things I was thankful for, the longer the list became. It changed my attitude and helped me drive 45 miles an hour on the highway with people flying at 70 all around me, speeding on my bumper. God held me together through the power of thankfulness. My sister complained because she thought I was doing better. I wasn’t that great, but speaking all the ways God had cared for us in the midst of frustrating times grounded my heart and mind. She drove her car the next day, and my mom held Christmas dinner and gift opening until we arrived. We still had a joyous Christmas together. I even surprised my mom by walking up behind her in the kitchen while she was talking to me on the phone.
God gave me a long list of things to be thankful for that Christmas, that I wouldn’t have appreciated as much without the hardship. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). We are to give thank always for all things, even things that don’t look good on the outset.
I don’t know what type of season you are in now. Maybe you have had more difficulties that just a flat tire and being thankful seems counterintuitive. Let me tell you from experience, a little thankfulness goes a long way in building endurance through hard times. I encourage you to find things you are thankful for even in your darkest hour. The good is there if you look hard enough. If you can’t see it, ask God for His vision. Let God illustrate His love for you no matter your circumstances, even if you have a flat tire.
This year, instead of listing lots of New Year’s Resolutions, I am asking God for New Year’s Revelations. If you want to craft actionable New Year’s Resolutions, please read my previous blogs with suggestions on how to have holistic and SMART resolutions. Though I try this method every year, I don’t always reach my goals. During the lockdown in 2020, I didn’t visit a new state. I couldn’t control COVID. I also failed to meet other goals, but God reordered my world that year and accomplished different things instead.
To better align with God’s desires, I’ve decided to pray for God’s revelations on what He wants me to do. My first goal is to seek insights into His will and design for my life during each day this year. I can set all the lofty goals I want, but have learned that many things reside outside of my control. God knows my future. I need to listen to His will for the moment instead of charting a course when I don’t even have a map.
I look to God’s Word for His directions. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NKJV). God gave us the Bible so that we may deepen our relationship with Him every day. All God-breathed Scripture gives us wisdom to obey God so that will glorify Him and have no regrets.
When I seek wisdom, often I use a concordance or go to www.Biblegateway.com to look for verses on a specific topic. For example, when writing this blog, I discovered there are 86 verses in the NKJV that include the word “reveal.” I reviewed those verses, collecting the ones the Holy Spirit highlighted in a Word document to use in this blog. Scripture answers the questions you are asking God. He doesn’t leave you high and dry, but shares His truths with you so you can honor Him in all your ways.
The Bible clarifies that when God reveals truth to me, He wants me to obey. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (NKJV). Sometimes, obedience requires action. Maybe I need to apologize to someone or send a note of encouragement. Other times, obedience requires patience. I am to stay and listen. I struggle to wait for God’s timing because I have a bias for action. Yet, in my waiting room, God whispers to my hungry soul that He will provide all my needs. His timing is perfect. God is never early or late. I need to obey without delay, be that stay or go.
As I listen for God’s voice to guide my steps, I remind myself that God will never reveal “new truths” that contradict the Bible. When I look for God to reveal His will, I read a passage in context and cross-reference it with other parts of Scripture. Sometimes, people will read the Bible to try find a verse to justify their actions. God is not about helping us find excuses to disobey His Word, but uses Scripture to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
As we go forward into 2022, I challenge us all to sit at the feet of Jesus by reading the Bible and listening to the truths He reveals to us. Daniel 2:22, “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him” (NKJV). May we listen to the deep things He wants to share with us to lighten our paths. May we obey no matter the call, so we can see greater things in the year to come. I pray that we, our children, and all generations would listen to the secret things of the Lord and live them out in our world for His name and renown both now and forevermore.
As I leave the season of Thanksgiving and enter into the frenzy that precedes Christmas, I can focus on what I want instead of rejoicing in what I already have. One way that I’ve learned to fight off coveting both things from stores or other people’s lives is to practice thankfulness. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV). At times, I struggle be thankful when I see people who have gone further in their careers than me or have the families I wish I had. Over time and space, I’ve learned to be more thankful with a few key practices.
Five ways to grow in gratitude:
1. Count Your Blessings
Once when I was frustrated because my life seemed to be heading downhill, I met a homeless woman by my local grocery store. She had lost her job and was sleeping in a cemetery. When I saw someone in worse shape than me, I realized I had a lot to be thankful for. At least I still had my own bed. That night, I wrote a list of the top five things I was thankful for that day. Then I started writing them down every night. My whole mindset shifted to looking for the good instead of expecting the worst. Psalm 107:15 says, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men” (NKJV). God does great things for us every day, we just need to watch for them.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Beyond just listing the things you are thankful for, you can also journal the experiences to read later. When I go back to some old entries, I see how God got me through circumstances that appeared impossible at the time. Those stories become my testimony of God’s faithfulness. God didn’t just care for people in the Bible times, His goodness extends to me in the present.
3. Ask Others to Share Their Praises
If I feel like my list of blessings is lacking, sometimes I ask others to tell me about how God is working in their lives. However, I must have the right mindset. When I am in a bad mood, hearing about good things happening to others can do one of two things to me. I can either pout that I don’t have what they do, or realize that if God cared for them, He would also attend to my needs. The two ways I listed above help us to recognize good things, but our joy multiplies when we share our praises with others.
Malachi 3:16 says, “Then those who feared the spoke to one another, And the listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the And who meditate on His name” (NKJV). As we fear God, we share about His mighty acts with each other. This grows our faith and blesses our hearts. The Lord delights in those who abide in the truths of His Word.
4. Talk about God’s Goodness with Others
After we ask others to talk about God’s faithfulness, then we share our praises in response. Even on our darkest days, good remains. Take that list of things you are thankful for, even if they are only a pair of shoes and a blue toothbrush, and tell someone. Call your mom, phone a friend, or talk to the lady at the register at the grocery store. When we hear ourselves speaking about what we are thankful for, it registers deeper in our minds.
Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the mercies of the forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations” (NKJV). God designed our mouths to sing about His mercy so that every person that ever walks with earth will know the faithfulness of God.
5. Write out the Names of God:
Psalm 97: 12 says, “Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (NKJV). Another way to flex our thankfulness muscles is to write down the names of God. Jehovah Jireh reminds us that God is our Provider, not our job or our spouse. The Lord provides for all our needs because He owns everything (Philippians 4:19). Jehovah Rapha means God our Healer. As we saw with all the miracles Jesus performed during His life on earth, we see that He can heal our hurts too. The names of God reflect His character. Research the names of God and find out which ones apply to your current circumstances. When we think about Who we have in Christ, it helps wipe out our longings for what we don’t own.
These are just a few ways to build our thankfulness muscles. The bigger our gratitude grows, the more capacity we have to be truly thankful in all things. My thankfulness pulls me out of the slump of feeling like I don’t have enough to realizing the abundance of all I have. I am blessed beyond measure. May you grow in gratitude every day as you bask in the Lord favor shines upon you.
As Americans, we celebrate Veterans Day every year to remember our military members who fought to preserve our freedoms. We honor all who have served, including those who paid the ultimate price to sacrifice for our liberties. Over 650,000 American troops have died in battle and over 539,000 have died in non-combat situations. More than 1 million lives have helped keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave. Freedom is not free.
The same truth applies to our lives as believers. As Christians, we no longer live as slaves to sin. Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (NKJV). We are free to walk in the newness of life in daily communion with the Lord. The law of sin and death condemns us before we even get out of bed in the morning because of the weight of our human sins. Fortunately, because of Christ, we live under God’s grace that covers all our trespasses so we can walk in newness of life in the Spirit.
When we walk in the Spirit, we walk in the light. We walk in freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (NIV). The Holy Spirt guides our thoughts and actions so we can break the chains of bondage to sin and live lives worthy of our calling.
Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (NIV). Our freedom lets us love others well. We are not free to do whatever we want. We cannot indulge in any sin we want and think God doesn’t notice. Our lives no longer belong to us. The things we say and do represent the God who saved us.
Some people forget the price of our salvation. They cheapen grace into a get out of hell free card, forgetting their freedom is not free. We do not have an excuse to justify sin. Instead, the blood of Jesus justifies us from the penalty of sin that is death so that we walk in the paths of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (NIV). Jesus paid the price of His shed blood for our sins. He endured an excruciatingly painful death on the cross and the full wrath of God so we could be reconciled back into relationship with the Father. May our love be loud and proud as we show our liberty in Christ to the broken word where we reside.
America may be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but I can’t think of a better time for us to use our freedom in Christ as a door to share the love of Christ near and far. We are to offer our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) to spread the good news of a grace that transforms us from the inside out so the world wants that life-changing freedom for themselves. May we never forget the price Jesus paid for our freedom. May it compel us to serve others in love and shine as lights into a dark world.
What do you do when you suffer? Do you moan and groan? Do you complain to a friend? Do you phone your mom? If I’m honest, often I think “Who can I call?” I want to talk out my problems and hopefully find solutions through the discussion. Sometimes this works, but the results are usually incomplete.
I see a lot of suffering in the world right now. Personally, I have a family member in the hospital. Again. Chronic stuff is miserable because as soon as you think the person is better, the pain rears its ugly head. A lot of my friends seem to be under a squeeze right now too with knee injuries, unemployment, cancer. The list is long and ugly and too big for me to crack. Even if I phone my mom, she can’t fix all these problems.
Instead of calling friends or family, I need to call God. James 5:13a says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (NKJV). Wow. The Bible is clear in what to do when we are suffering. We should pray.
When we pray, we unleash the God of the universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, to enter the equation. We allow all of His strength and ability to fill in the holes of our human inabilities. God can solve the problems of the world today – be they big or small. We need to come with faith like a child, knowing that God cares and will act on our behalf. Psalm 18:6 says, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears” (NKJV).
I want God to hear my cry. Many times, I’ve prayed with passion, fearing if I didn’t say all the right words that God may not help. Now I realize that does not align with God’s character. He cares more about the heart of the person praying than the words they speak. When we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26-27). With the Holy Spirit as our prayer buddy, with the right heart we can never pray wrong. The prayer of surrender to God is never easy, but we will have the best results when we do it His way.
Maybe you are suffering right now. Keep your quarter, and don’t phone home. First, call upon the Lord, and He will listen to you. Let Him know the depths of your pain. He can handle it. Leave your problems in His hands and trust Him to comfort you and make a way. The path may not look how you expected, but stay on it no matter how narrow the road. It will lead you deeper into the heart of God as He sees you through all your cares. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV). His timing is perfect. Keep praying. Trust God’s character. One day, the Lord will dry every tear you cry in suffering and turn it into a thing of beauty for His glory.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.